Cus­tomer Ser­vice

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There was a time many years ago when a prob­lem with a prod­uct was cor­rected with an at­ti­tude of “the cus­tomer is right” and mea­sures were taken to en­sure that the cus­tomer would re­turn to the place of pur­chase. That place of pur­chase would of­ten be em­bar­rassed at a prod­uct that was faulty or de­fec­tive and would of­fer money back or an ex­change. The place of pur­chase could be a small shop or a large depart­ment store. Of­ten the cus­tomer would be sat­is­fied be­cause the prob­lem was usu­ally han­dled di­rectly with a face to face meet­ing. Some­times there would be prob­lems that were mis­han­dled, the Monty Python “Dead Par­rot” sketch comes to mind, but usu­ally a cus­tomer would be sat­is­fied with an ex­change or re­fund. There is a ma­jor depart­ment store that would stand be­hind it prod­ucts and ser­vice with­out ques­tion, and still does, but in re­cent years the chances of face to face cus­tomer ser­vice for a prob­lem is in­creas­ingly rare. This depart­ment store is re­plac­ing the large multi-floor shop­ping com­plex with small satel­lite de­pots that are ba­si­cally a cat­a­logue or­der desk and/or pick-up point es­pe­cially in the smaller cities and towns where they are of­ten a side busi­ness in­cluded with an­other. Liar­ton’s Marty-Mart is a good ex­am­ple as you can get gas for your car, gas from the chili in the deli and gas from the beer in the liquor store, as well as pick up a de­liv­ery from your Wish Book Cat­a­logue or­der. With on­line and phone sales, the chances of a real per­son to han­dle a prob­lem comes down to the guy run­ning the de­pot, who in Marty-Mart’s case is lim­ited in what can be done with some very old com­puter gear ded­i­cated to the “Wish Book” store. They are just a pickup de­pot, so if there is a prob­lem, it must be ad­dressed by phon­ing a 1-800 cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber. We had a prob­lem with a Wish Book or­der and needed to do a sim­ple ex­change for a piece of cloth­ing that was the wrong size. Easy peasy, even Marty can han­dle that, but this piece of cloth­ing had been or­dered along with a gift from a Ma­ter­nity Registry and was to be shipped to a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion. When the pack­age ar­rived at the Marty-Mart (the wrong lo­ca­tion) the two or­ders had been pack­aged as one and the bar­code had no in­di­ca­tion of sep­a­rate codes on the prod­uct. The bar­code in­di­cated one prod­uct, which was de­scribed as “gift.” That tied Marty’s hands as far as an ex­change went. Marty did try to phone the 1-800 cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber but got frus­trated try­ing to ex­plain the prob­lem while run­ning the till and pump­ing gas, so we of­fered to phone about the prob­lem at home. We should have let Marty get frus­trated. I di­aled the 1-800 num­ber and spoke with a man named “Dave” about how wrong this or­der had been right from the start by be­ing de­liv­ered to the wrong ad­dress, which turned out to be a good thing or we would not have dis­cov­ered the size er­ror. Dave as­sured me in a thick un-Cana­dian ac­cent that the Marty-Mart would be able to ac­cept the ex­change so we went back to have Marty try again but he was still un­able to com­plete the sim­ple task be­cause of the bar code prob­lem. Marty phoned the 1-800 num­ber and tried to ex­plain the bar code snag to a lady named “Linda” who also had a thick un-Cana­dian ac­cent. She could not understand why there was a prob­lem. Marty apol­o­gized to us af­ter he hung up on Linda with an un­re­peat­able but colour­ful phrase about his mother’s trucker. I was be­gin­ning to see a com­mon root in our in­abil­ity to solve what should have been a sim­ple ex­change and that was a lan­guage bar­rier. Marty agreed and we of­fered to try again the next morn­ing af­ter we had cooled down. My plan was sim­ple, have a fresh cof­fee, a charged up tele­phone bat­tery, all our re­ceipts, code/or­der num­bers and then let Mrs. B han­dle the “ne­go­ti­a­tions.” This was a wise de­ci­sion be­cause the first thing she did af­ter di­al­ing the 1-800 num­ber was ask for a Cana­dian cus­tomer ser­vice agent. In a few mo­ments, she was con­nected to “Wendy” and within a mere 30-35 min­utes had ar­ranged for a pick-up from our door to ini­ti­ate the ex­change process. Mrs. B was able to do one thing that Marty and I could not do and that was to re­main calm de­spite a com­mu­ni­ca­tions prob­lem. The calm and wise Mrs. B was also aware of a statute re­quir­ing the over­seas call cen­ters to trans­fer or give a con­tact num­ber in their own coun­try. We (Mrs. B, Marty and my­self) all had a real good laugh when Mrs. B com­mented on the ac­cents we had heard in the last few days, in­clud­ing the very thick New­found­land/Cana­dian ac­cent from Wendy. We just have to lis­ten…

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